Millennium Post

We can’t afford to defang the Lokpal

It is important to pay heed to the rather just protestations sounded by Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, on the sensitive issue of the election of the Lokpal. It is evident that after a number of botched attempts at picking committee heads, in which cases eminent jurists refused to become part of search and other panels of the central watchdog, the UPA is hellbent on finding a way to appoint the Lokpal before the present government falls. Naturally, this is an orchestrated attempt to not only garner credit for the formation and legislation of the anti-corruption body, but also, in covert manners, to implant a person of choice, given that most of the cases under scanner happen to emanate from the UPA camp. So when Jaitley asks why the unholy haste in UPA camp to fill up vacancies in Lokpal search committee, given that the government’s days are numbered and the process of transition is already underway, he does make a valid intervention. One does need to ask why the prime minister’s office is showing more interest than usual in plugging the gaps in the anti-corruption and other probing organisations right before the current union cabinet is about to be dissolved? While Jaitley evokes the ‘residual credibility’ of an ‘accidental prime minister’, the more pertinent question that needs to be asked is what exactly is the jurisprudential loophole that the appointment of the ombudsman is posing before the system? Inasmuch as the Lokpal will have powers over all the investigative and vigilance bodies as well as the bureaucracy, the chair of the body cannot in the least be a partisan implant of either political camps, or be an emissary of any one organ of the democratic republic. Hence, the selection of the Lokpal must be free of both ideological and political baggage and with the exception of constitutional validity and exceptional capability, allowance for anything else must not be made under any circumstance.
     Therefore, the choice of Lokpal cannot be undertaken in a hasty manner, just to coincide with and sweeten the exit point of the UPA government, which is faced with an extremely high tide of nationwide anti-incumbency sentiment. That the anti-incumbency is primarily built upon the Congress-led UPA’s unusually high corruption graph, with humongous scams playing out and unfolding in the last two terms, it is obvious that instituting a Lokpal, albeit much diluted and defanged, would only work in UPA’s favour. But that will seriously undermine the years of struggle for an anti-graft watchdog, both in terms of the Jan Lokpal movement as well as the Anna Hazare-led India Against Corruption campaign, which built and sustained enough momentum to force the UPA to pass the Lokpal and Lokayukta bill in December 2013. It would be a stark disservice to the spirit of both the Lokpal and the Constitution if the country’s top ombudsman is tampered with for petty and short-term political gains on the part of the ruling party at the centre.         

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